Situated in 14 feet of water at the bottom of Long Key Channel some 500 yards south of the viaduct bridge, the shipwreck of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias (Our Lady of the Anguishes) is one of the lesser-known dive sites in the Florida Keys. Also called El Charanguero Grande (the Great Coastal Trader) or San Rafael, this 328 1/2 - ton merchant nao was built in England and was armed with four cannons. Her master was Don Francisco Sanchez Madrid, and she was owned by José Sanchez de Madrid, possibly the master's father. Loaded with a general cargo of indigo and cochineal dyes, as well as Mexican silver and Chinese porcelain, Angustias sailed in the rear echelon of the New Spain flota with Almiranta and Sueco de Arizón. Driven by the hurricane toward the Florida Keys, Angustias became stranded in shallow water at the Cayo de Viboras (present-day Long Key). All of her people were saved, as well as most of the cargo and ship's supplies.
Ashore, survivors assembled a salvage camp where cargos and passenger baggage recovered from the sunken vessels were gathered to be shipped back to Havana. While waiting at the camp for return passage, one of Angustias' passengers, Joseph Ignacio de Toca Velasco, began to write a sixty-page poem about the fleet disaster. Published in Madrid in 1734, the poem is unusual because Velasco recorded the storm and what happened to the fleet in an epic style, as the events occurred or had just recently occurred. He described how the wind ripped the topmasts off and they became tangled in the mainsail, how the seas came over the bow and the ship rolled on its side. The cannons were thrown overboard along with boxes of cargo, and the main and mizzen masts were cut to lighten the ship. The poem continues to describe the other ships in the fleet, where they ran aground, what happened to the people onboard, how they were transported to the Keys, and how they suffered hunger, thirst, heat, and plagues of flies and mosquitoes.
The resting place of Angustias today is seldom visited by divers because of low underwater visibility and heavy channel currents. The ship's ballast stones cover more than 6,000 square feet of the channel bottom, which is scoured of sediments due to a steady movement of water that nourishes an abundance of hard and soft coral colonies that grow on the ballast stones. Some of the coral formations are quite large and harbor a wide variety of marine life, including groupers, jacks, snappers, angels, as well as barracudas, turtles, and nurse sharks. For optimum underwater conditions, Angustias should be visited only at high slack tide by advanced open-water divers, since tidal currents in the Long Key Channel can become treacherous.
Location: 24° 47.455'N 80° 51.738'W